Men without hats: James Ellroy and Eddie Muller on "Crime Wave"
Eddie Muller and James Ellroy, who provide the commentary on the DVD release of Crime Wave, know and love their subjects (noir, movies, Los Angeles), enjoy one another's company, and plainly enjoyed watching the movie together. More to the point, they enhance the movie, not always the case with DVD commentary tracks.
Ellroy is a wild man, announcing himself as, among other things, "the White Knight of the Far Right." Over the movie's opening sequence, shot at a gas station, he says: "This is a righteous gas station."
Muller is the most engaging of commentators, bringing a fan's love and an expert's knowledge to the job. (He calls himself a writer and a cultural archaeologist. Among other credits, he's written non-fiction books about noir, and he founded the Film Noir Foundation.)
The two love the movie's look, Muller highlighting its extensive use of location shots, rare for the time (the movie was shot in thirteen days in 1952, and released in 1954) and Ellroy, that man who sometimes seems not to know the meaning of restraint, panted not just at Phyllis Kirk's beauty, but also at gorgeously composed shots and quiet camera work. (That's Ellroy's word, quiet.)
Watch this movie, and you'll learn which actresses of the time Muller and Ellroy would have dated. But you'll also get a nostalgic tour of 1950s L.A., and some astute comments about the choices directors make.
Curtis Hanson was right to have the male characters go hatless in his film of Ellroy's L.A. Confidential, Ellroy said. Real detectives would all have worn hats in the 1950s, but hats would have created too much distance from a 1990s audience.
And wait till you hear what Ellroy says about Chinatown.
© Peter Rozovsky 2010